It’s always the perfect time for pie, but when Thanksgiving is on the horizon, it takes on a whole new level of importance. My mom has made this classic buttermilk pie for years, and it’s been such a Styles family favorite that I assumed everyone was familiar with the deliciousness that is buttermilk pie—until I mentioned it to some of my friends who weren’t from the south and was met with blank stares.
So I figured it was time to spread the word about this classic southern dessert. My mom is the resident pie baker at our family Thanksgiving, and sometimes we can convince her to make this one in addition to the necessary pumpkin and (two) pecans. And, after many years of attempting to make the perfect from-scratch pie crust, she’s finally decided that store-bought is actually just as good. I know, hot take, but maybe let’s just cut ourselves some slack and take it? We’ll get into the pie crust debate more below, but for now, scroll on to find out more about this classic Southern buttermilk pie. I’d love to hear if you try it.
What does buttermilk pie taste like?
Buttermilk pie is a Southern favorite that (IMHO) doesn’t quite get the attention it deserves. Trust me—one bite, and you’ll agree. This creamy, custard-based pie is surprisingly light and airy (think crème brûlée texture!) The unexpected star ingredient (buttermilk) gives it a welcome tangy flavor that’s an amazing complement to the pie’s sweetness, liberal dose of vanilla extract, and flaky pie crust.
The difference between buttermilk pie and chess pie
My mom also makes some incredible southern chess pies, so I was wondering about the difference between a chess pie and buttermilk pie myself… and turns out, a lot of people have been googling the same thing. So I did my research.
Traditionally, chess pie or custard pie has vinegar or cornmeal in the filling to provide its signature custardy consistency. Buttermilk pie uses neither of these, and gets its signature flavor from the buttermilk (obviously). It’s got a personality all its own.
The perfect crust for buttermilk pie
I alluded above to my mom’s opinion that store-bought crust can be just as good as homemade, and last time I dropped this bomb, you guys had a LOT of opinions. So let’s dig into it.
One thing that makes store-bought crust potentially better is that it’s incredibly reliable. Anyone who regularly bakes with pastry dough knows: it can be fickle. Some crusts are better than others, and especially at Thanksgiving when you might be turning out multiple pies in one day, reliability is the name of the game.
Plus, it’s just plain easy. I’m 100x more likely to casually make a pie if I know that all I need to do is thaw the crust in the refrigerator before I’m ready to use it. We used to splurge on the more expensive all-butter pie crusts in the freezer section, but after lots of experimentation, both my mom and I have been converted back to good old-fashioned Pillsbury.
A prettier pie crust
My mom shared two tips to make your pie extra pretty, using store-bought pastry crust:
- Roll out your store-bought crust to make it a bit larger and thinner than usual, so that you can fold the edges under to form a more decorative edge.
- Use an extra crust to make fall leaf shapes for topping your pie. After cutting the leaf shapes out of dough, brush with a beaten egg mixed with a couple teaspoons of water. Sprinkle sugar on top, then bae until lightly golden brown. Place on top of your baked pie for a decorative finish.
How to Make Classic Buttermilk Pie
This recipe is incredibly easy. Here are general instructions:
- You’re going to combine the sugar, butter and flour in a large bowl, and beat until smooth and creamy.
- Add the eggs, then the buttermilk, vanilla and salt.
- Pour into pie shell and grate nutmeg lightly over top of pie (my mom uses a microplane grater for this.)
- Total baking time in the oven is about 45 minutes—you want the filling to be set and lightly browned. We sometimes use a pie shield to keep the edges from burning.
It’s so good topped with a dollop of whipped cream—and maybe a few berries on the side.
Scroll on for the recipe for this classic buttermilk pie, and if you give it a try, don’t forget to leave a rating and a comment below!
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- 1 1/8 cups sugar
- 1/4 cup butter, room temp
- 3 tablespoons flour (a combination of whole wheat flour is good)
- 3 eggs
- 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
- 1 tablespoon vanilla
- 1/8 tsp salt
- nutmeg, preferably whole nutmeg, grated
- 1 9-inch unbaked pastry shell
- optional garnish: whipped cream and berries
- Place rack in lower third of oven and preheat to 400 degrees.
- Combine sugar, butter and flour in medium bowl and beat until smooth and creamy.
- Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in buttermilk, vanilla and salt.
- Pour into pie shell and grate nutmeg lightly over top of pie (a microplane grater works well for this). Bake 10 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 350. Bake another 35-40 minutes, or until filling is set and lightly browned. Cover edge of pie shell during baking if browning too quickly.
- Place pie on rack to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature, with whipped cream and berries if desired. Refrigerate leftovers.
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